I don’t like to talk about my age. It’s not that I feel old. It’s that I don’t want to feel old if I accidentally reveal too many details that concretely set me in a particular decade of origin.
But at the moment, I’m making an exception, because yesterday I became The Meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything.
Yes, that’s right, I turned…42.
Now, I’m aware that the notion I might suddenly be imbued with some amazing powers, status, or secret knowledge based solely on bearing this number is a fanciful one. But, hey, haven’t we all had enough reality for a while?! So let’s indulge in some daydreaming.
So, since I am ruling all for the next 12 months, what’s on my wish list? And of course, being a bookdragon, I will have very specific demands — er, “requests” regarding the bookish world.
Shall we get to it?
No stickers on the dust jackets of hardcovers. Like, ever again. I know, I know, some of them are supposed to peel off easily, but too many of us have suffered tragedies as a result of 95% of stickers not coming off well. So, they shall be abolished!
There will be a limit on how high books can be priced. I feel the complaints about the cost of new titles with my soul. There are SO MANY interesting publications that I a) can’t get from the library and b) can’t afford to buy myself. From now on, bookstores won’t charge more than $20 for a hardcover and no more than $12 for a paperback. Yes, that includes online retailers!
Summaries on the back or the inside cover will no longer be misleading. This is absolutely a trend in recent years. It’s frustrating. It means I go into a book expecting something completely different to what I end up reading. So, be on notice misleading-blurb-creators!
Novels will adhere to a strict limit of 400 pages or less. No one has the time, or the energy, to read those great whalloping doorstops anymore. And if people are forced to get to the point already in their storytelling, they’ll actually have to leave out all those extraneous subplots and purple prose and 15 paragraphs describing the bathroom antiques. Onward to a more satisfying reading experience!
Overused tropes will become a thing of the past. Look, I love the archetypes as much as the next well-read creature. HOWEVER, we’ve all had to suffer through faaaaaar too many Chosen Ones, Special Snowflakes, Mary Sues (female and male), love triangles (even love squares?!), inner circle betrayals, and enemies-turned-friends. It’s time for some NEW stuff.
Diversity will just be part of the deal. No need for agendas shoved in our faces, or bandwagon topics shoehorned into a story that could actually do without them. Biracial kids or non-traditional families or a range of disabled characters will just exist, in the way the author intended.
Authors are finally using more unique or uncommon names for characters – let’s keep this up. All through the early 2000s, character lists read like The Biggest Baby Names of that decade. No wonder we couldn’t tell anybody apart. Nowadays, though, protagonists — especially in YA fantasy — are a lot more likely to be called Maisie and Judd, rather than Bella and Finn. I wholeheartedly support this.
On the other side of this, fantasy names will be PRONOUNCEABLE. Thousands of wonderful fantasy premises have been ruined by the authors insisting their characters bear monikers that only Klingons can pronounce. While I’m at the helm, this is getting locked in a closet (and the key being melted down).
Romance can take a break. Yes, romance is a big part of many people’s lives, and for many readers, the romance in fiction can be very escapist and satisfying. BUT there are more things to life than romance — including close friendships, sibling bonds, and extended relatives that feel like nuclear family. And many of us experience these, too, and would like to see more of them in novels. So, here’s my edict that authors will focus more on friendships than first loves or rebounds for a while.
Covers will only be appropriate, beautiful and/or amazing, and relevant to the story underneath. No shirtless dudes or swooning women with more clevage than sense. No collages of primary colors that tell us zero details about the plot or themes. And no hard-to-read fonts that mean we thought the title was “This Nebulous Sea Serpent” but turns out to be “This Nefarious Seashell Poppet.”
Happy endings will be much easier to come by. I once wrote an entire post about how I can’t stand the intense negativity and grimdark elements in almost everything anymore. It is possible for characters with a rough backstory or a hard struggle on page to still get the girl or boy, run off to a serene little farm and raise wombats. Here’s to peaceful conclusions!
History, whether it’s nice or not, shall be accurately presented. Sorry-not-sorry, folks, but attempting to rewrite history is in fact dangerous. We have to remember all the bad stuff, so that we can ensure it doesn’t happen again. I’m all for alternative histories, or alternative futures — I’d like to read more of both, actually — but we can’t determine that erasing the past makes the future better. So we’re maintaining warts and all.
We’re promoting graphic novels as real books. They already are real, I know this, but too many snobs still pshaw graphic novels. They’re a fantastic medium for kids learning to read, or those who struggle with reading (this goes for teens and adults, too).
Series that should have ended a while back…will be done. As much as I love some of these long-running tales, they can seriously wrap up and ride off to that lovely little wombat farm. We all have our favorites that just feel…stale now, and I think we can all agree that endings don’t have to be sad, or unnaturally prolonged. We can say goodbye, and survive afterwards.
All right, this does it for my proclamations! What would you add to this list for the year you turn 42 and have all-powerful bookish status for a year?